Renovating your roof - An overhaul at the highest level

The roof - an essential part of our home. It needs to be well maintained and roof damage avoided as far as possible. In the following article, you will receive valuable tips on when a roof renovation makes sense for you, what you should pay attention to and how it is carried out.


Roof renovation - The old roof is covered and renovated

Got a damaged roof? You’re in the right place. Read on for more insights into how to prevent and repair roof damage or, to sum it up, renovating your roof. Culturally of course, the crucial role of the roof needs no explanation. Oft a dictum, a language and a life without a roof is literally inconceivable. Whether it be “roof damage” or working as a roofer or carpenter, the roof has actually gained in popularity since Jesus and way back when. And while new technologies have opened up new ways forward in a structural sense, ever since the first roof - the ceiling of the cave – they’ve met the same need, namely to protect people against the merciless forces of nature.

But since walls have also come into existence, any roof worth its salt should also perform some insulation tasks and it can only do that properly if it’s well maintained. In other words, it should be kept “healthy”. Any among you who feel a bit blindsided at this point probably haven’t read our article on Sustainable refurbishment. Just one of the takeaways from it, the link between the Latin word for healthy and the modern meaning of “to renovate”. All of which brings us to the crux of the matter - roof renovation. Learn everything you need to know about it here.

When does a roof renovation make sense?

Well, none of us really need reminding. You don’t wait until you get toothache to visit the dentist. And roof renovation is much the same. Don’t wait until it’s on the point of collapsing, or you may have to convert your living room into an open-air cinema. Fortunately, that is overwhelmingly rare. Most roofs are renovated for the following reasons:

  • Due to areas that leak

  • For energy-related reasons

  • Following renovation of roof trusses.

Roof renovation due to leaks

Most Swiss roofs are covered in clay roof tiles – and depending on the quality and weather, can withstand erosion for 60+ years. Once you get past that, the chance of a leak will soar. If roofs are covered with concrete tiles, cracks can even appear much earlier (after 40 years at the latest). To avoid the complete renovation this would entail, have your roof condition checked regularly by specialists.

Roof renovation following roof truss renewal

Although roof trusses are built to be stable and durable, they are not immune to the somewhat volatile Swiss seasons. Even so, you can expect them to hold up for a few decades. When it comes to withstanding weather, we pass the short straw to the attic, which is first in line. With that in mind, remain watchful for the standout signs of wear and tear, like cracks in the woodwork, mould growth or even rotten spots. Acting early often eliminates the need for complete renovations and lets you get away with replacing individual beams instead.

Roof renovation for energy reasons

Energy - namely saving it - and making the occupants more comfortable is what motivates most people to renovate their roofs. Given that warm air rises and exits at the highest possible point, buildings lose much of their heat through the roof in winter. Accordingly, the key criterion dictating the energy efficiency of your property is how well insulated your roof is and how effectively it stops warm air from escaping.

Conversely, properly insulating your roof also helps when it heats up. When one of the real summer scorchers hits your roof, the temperature under the tiles can easily reach 80°C. Insulating properly will stop this heat from infiltrating your house and making your attic into a greenhouse. So much so, in fact, that you may see a hobbit run by every now and again; throwing a ring through the window.

Check out our article on Sustainable refurbishment for more key tips on how to optimise the energy balance of your home.

What to look out for when renovating a roof?

Renovating a damaged roof is not for the faint-hearted and to keep things on point, you are best off considering a few things before you start. After all, you don’t want to green-light a costly remodelling and then decide afterwards that you actually wanted skylights. So here are some useful pointers in advance:

Do you need a building permit for roof renovation?

When we answer this, you may feel a sense of deja-vu or Groundhog Day. But trust us, it’s not a lack of imagination on our part so much as Swiss federalism to blame. Ultimately, construction-related decisions are made on a cantonal level, which means they can vary from one canton to the next.

Inevitably, though, a permit of some kind will be needed for most structural changes. Exceptions made by the authorities include measures that do not affect third parties, namely chimneys, skylights and minimal superstructures.

Keen to have new skylights installed at the same time?

Before you start renovating your roof, you should also directly ponder how satisfied you are with the light you get in your attic. If you want a more sunkissed space, a roof renovation is the ideal time to bring that dream of dormers or windows to fruition. Installing extra windows, or enlarging what you have already, not only brightens up the place, but can boost thermal insulation and thus the overall energy efficiency of your home. So why not kill two birds with one stone and use the renovation to brighten your gloomy under-roof existence. Our article on Converting your attic gives you a wealth of creative ideas for upgrading your attic.

Ever considered a photovoltaic system?

Give your very own gross domestic product a helping hand with a BIPV - the Building Integrated Photovoltaic replaces your roof tiles and generates energy for you – topping up your up-top as it were! A wealth of different technologies exist to turn your roof into a small power plant. Find out about photovoltaics or similar systems before renovating and if you have the chance, go for it. Retroactively fitting the pipes, connections and mounts you will need is money you could have saved.

How a roof renovation happens

Keen to renovate your roof? Don’t want major architectural upheaval? Then doing it directly through a specialist planner may be best. Roof renovation usually proceeds like this as a general rule:

  • Planning meeting held with a specialist to discuss the procedure

  • Scaffolding is erected

  • The former roof covering, lathing and insulation are removed

  • Skylights and load-bearing elements adjusted as applicable

  • The vapour barrier, insulation and sub-roof are installed

  • The counter-battens and roofing are assembled

  • General plumbing and sealing work is done

Summing up the key points

Time required:

  • Simple gable roof: around 4 weeks

  • More complex, angled roof shapes: approx. 4-8 weeks

  • Replacing load-bearing elements: 6 weeks +

  • Good to Know: You don’t need to move out during the renovation work, but you must expect construction noise


  • Costs depend very much on the type, area, condition of your roof and your needs. But as a general rule: renewing a roof truss: 200 CHF/m², re-roofing: 100 CHF/m² and re-insulating your roof: 40-250 CHF/m² (depending on which insulation materials are used).

  • In total, you can expect to pay between 30,000 to 60,000 CHF.

  • You can apply for cantonal subsidies for heat and energy technology measures such as insulation, solar collectors and photovoltaic systems.

  • Check out for a detailed list of renovation subsidies.